Comparing the Impact of Early and Later Life Exposure to Disadvantage on Self-Assessed Health in Ireland
In this paper, we use data from a representative sample of Irish people to investigate inequalities in self-assessed health and examine, for the first time in Ireland, the degree to which these inequalities can be accounted for by processes occurring over the life-course. Research in a number of countries has now shown that early life exposure to socioeconomic disadvantage and deprivation can impact on adult health, although the exact process through which this effect occurs is disputed. In this paper we use detailed information on socioeconomic circumstances during childhood, current material circumstances, levels of social support and differential health behaviours to investigate whether socio-economic disadvantage in childhood or adverse circumstances in adulthood are better predictors of adult health status. We find that disadvantage in childhood is the best predictor of adult health status and that there is a direct effect from childhood circumstances to adult health controlling for educational attainment and adult position and circumstances. Overall we find that around 14% of class inequality in health status stems from childhood exposure, but also that using a different model estimation method from previous papers, that past results in other countries may actually have over-estimated the role of childhood circumstances in social class differentials in adult health status. Evidence from the paper also suggests that childhood disadvantage plays a larger role in forming adult inequalities in health in Ireland than it does in other countries.
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